Mirjana Maleska
Full Professor at the Doctoral School of Political Science, University “Ss. Cyril and Methodius”, Skopje.



In the beginning of April this year, a president of the Republic of Macedonia was being elected. The thesis that I advocate in this text is that instead of general and direct elections for a president of the Republic, which antagonize the society, especially the ethnic groups, Macedonia needs a greater social cohesion. This may possibly be achieved more successfully if the president is elected by the Parliament.

Let us go back to the beginning. In Macedonia, as well as in the other former socialist states, dramatic changes were occurring during 1990. The fall of the Berlin wall marked the beginning of the end of the one-party socialist systems. In September 1990, the communist government in Macedonia adopted amendments, which, among other things, legalized the right of the citizens to form political associations and political parties. The function “president of the state” was introduced, and the president was to be elected by the Parliament with two thirds majority. Later that month, the first free, multiparty elections were held. Sixteen political parties presented their programs and their candidates for MPs to the citizens. The nationalistic party IMRO-DPMNE won at these elections with 38 MPs in the new parliamentary composition out of a total of 120 MPs, which was an unpleasant surprise for the ruling communist party, which changed its name into Party for Democratic Changes, and then to Social-Democratic Alliance of Macedonia (SDSM). The second largest MP group was the Communist Alliance – Party for Democratic Changes (SKM-PDP) with 31 MPs. The ethnic Albanians from Macedonia were represented with 22 MPs, coming from the party PDP, in the new Parliament. In short, two processes were happening in the same time, whose result was – deepening of the societal divide. On the one hand, there was redistribution of power between the old and the new political forces. On the other hand, in the political power game, the parties of the ethnic Albanians came on the scene beside the Macedonian parties, asking for a change of their status from a status of minority to a constituent nation. This assumes that the state should immediately be reconstituted from a nation-state to a federation, at the moment when the Yugoslav federation was disintegrating through violent civil wars. There was a need for a unifying figure, a person who was sufficiently communist, yet sufficiently nationalist; who was an ethnic Macedonian but who was also respected by the Albanian and the other minorities in the country. Such a figure was found in the person of Tito’s former collaborator, Kiro Gligorov. Nevertheless, when the newly elected parliament was supposed to vote for a president of the state, Gligorov did not receive the two thirds majority of votes that was needed. The process of political bargaining began. The party with the largest number of MPs, IMRO-DPMNE, demanded and received the functions of vice president and prime minister in exchange for its votes. Thus, with two thirds majority, secured by the former communists, the new nationalists and the ethnic Albanians, Kiro Gligorov became the first president of the independent state. Since he undertook this function through a process of negotiations, no political party at that moment disputed his legitimacy, and he was able to tackle the difficult tasks facing him.

The following fifteen months were extremely difficult and important for the new country: a referendum for independence was organized, the peaceful independence from the Yugoslav federation, which disintegrated through civil wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, began; a new constitution was adopted; the denar was promoted as a national currency; and intensive diplomatic activity for recognition of the new state started, and right away faced hostile blockades from Greece due to the name, and disputing of its language from Bulgaria. The 1991 Constitution, which was adopted by the Parliament with two thirds majority, institutionalized the newly created balance of powers in society. It stipulates that the president of the state will be elected in the future at general and direct elections by the citizens, setting a high voter turnout in the second round – 50%. The former, at the time still strong, communist power structure, whose prominent intellectuals were preparing the new constitution, wanted to keep part of the power under its control at any cost, through the institution of president. They were certain in the victory of their candidate, Kiro Gligorov, who, in the meantime, enjoyed a great popularity among the people because he managed to lead the country towards independence and international recognition without war.

When general presidential elections were announced in 1994, Kiro Gligorov, who had indisputable legitimacy, had to appear as a party candidate of SDSM because of the election rules. He won at the elections with 52.44% of the votes, but his popularity began to decrease. Immediately after the elections, the opposition, which also included the party of the ethnic Albanians – DPA, asked that the elections be annulled, accusing of election fraud. The objections of the opposition were rejected by the competent institutions, but at the end of Gligorov’s mandate, in the country and abroad, the opposition reiterated the same accusations, denying his legitimacy. The relations between President Gligorov and the government of his party-SDSM also deteriorated, because there was a fierce power struggle. The SDSM-led government and its Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski felt strong enough and were no more eager to share power with Gligorov, who was still a strong figure on the political scene due to his personal authority. Accidentally or not, at that time there was an attempted assassination on him and the perpetrators have not been found yet.

A direct election of president is favoured when division of power is adopted as a constitutional principle, as is the case with Macedonia. Another division was introduced – apart from the division of power into legislative, executive and judicial – the division of the executive power between government and president of the republic. For example, the president has the right to veto – for example, if he/she is not pleased with a law that is passed by the Parliament with majority, he will not sign it. He/she appoints ambassadors, but the government gives the proposal for them. The president is the supreme commander of the armed forces, but the responsibility for the defence of the country is divided between the president and the Ministry of Defence. He/she also proposes a governor of the National Bank, partly keeping the control over the fiscal power in the country. The position of a president of the state is additionally strengthened due to the fact that the president is elected at direct elections with a five-year mandate, with the right to be re-elected, and the principle is that the candidate who received majority of the votes from the total number of voters wins the elections. If no candidate receives the needed majority of votes in the first round of the elections, then the two candidates who have received most of the votes in the first round enter the second round. The candidate who has received the majority of votes is elected for president if 40% of the voters voted.

The principle of power division in Macedonia was irrelevant whenever the president and the government were from the same political party. With one exception, which is unrepeatable. The President Boris Trajkovski, from IMRO-DPMNE, a very religious man who belonged to the protestant religion, turned against the government of its party IMRO-DPMNE and its prime minister Ljubco Georgievski, during the conflict with the Albanian guerrillas in 2001. Thanks to the fact that as a president he had competences to decide about war or peace, the US and the EU managed, through him, to exert pressure on both sides in the conflict in order to reach a peaceful solution. The mandate of the previous president Branko Crvenkovski, as a party (SDSM) candidate of the opposition, passed in confrontation with the government, composed by IMRO-DPMNE, which, from time to time, resulted in blockade of the system and political crises. Right after the elections, due to alleged election fraud, the legitimacy of Crvenkovski was disputed, and he faced boycott by the government and the prime minister. However, the greatest crisis between the president and the prime minister happened in terms of the policy of the country towards Greece and the name dispute. President Branko Crvenkovski changed the policy that he had been implementing until then in terms of this dispute, and began talking about the necessity of a compromise. On the other hand, the Government, headed by IMRO-DPMNE leader, Nikola Gruevski, remained on the position that there cannot be a compromise with Greece on the name and that there has to be a referendum for such a thing. The discord of domestic voices in the foreign policy did not bring any positive results, and additionally decreased the already weak popularity of Branko Crvenkovski and his party, SDSM. No one was very surprised when this april, the candidate of SDSM, for the president of the Republic, Ljubomir Frckovski, lost the elections.

So, at the April presidential elections, the IMRO-DPMNE candidate, Gjorgje Ivanov, convincingly won. A university professor, who defended his PhD on the topic that the model of consensus democracy is dangerous for Macedonia, is considered to be the ideologist behind the policy of confrontation with Greece regarding the name Macedonia. If we concede a little, we’ll have to concede for everything was his political credo so far. Since, immediately after the elections, according to the surveys, his rating fell to 2%, it is obviously that the citizens, voting for Ivanov, in fact once again gave their support for Gruevski’s policy of not conceding in regard to the name dispute with Greece. In this context, the personality of Gjorgje Ivanov is irrelevant. Regardless of the fact that he is saying he would resolve the name dispute and will lead the country in NATO and EU, he will not undertake any independent step.

The general and direct elections for president of the state did not bring society together, although it was the greatest ambition of Gruevski and his party after they had won the majority of seats in the Parliament and the majority of mayor positions in the municipalities: the Macedonians should look up to the Greeks and their politicians and all of them should stand in defence of his foreign policy. Unrealistic ambition! The 40% turnout in the second election round was hardly reached. The opposition and the international observers doubted the election list, on which 1,792,082 voters were registered out of 2,045,177 citizens in the country. The ethnic Albanians boycotted the elections. They don’t trust Gjorgje Ivanov. The party of ethnic Albanians DUI , which is a coalition partner in N. Gruevski’s government and gave their support for the VMRO-DPMNE candidate, because of that, is losing its popularity among its voters… In order to regain the lost trust, they are now increasing the pressure on the prime minister and setting tight deadlines for resolving their demands, among which is the “name issue”.

Isn’t it time to start a debate for a different election model? To have the president of the state elected by the Parliament, with two thirds majority, securing the majority votes from the MPs of the minorities? In this way a consent will be reached among all relevant parliament parties, including the Albanian ones, regarding a compromise, a supra-party person, who will at least enjoy a greater degree of trust. There aren’t ideal solutions. However, general and direct elections produce unnecessary and dangerous party and ethnic fragmenting of society, which faces great problems in the country and abroad. And additionally, with the election of the president by the Parliament – money, time and the nerves of the citizens will be saved!